I don't think I'm going to watch Gonzaga/UNC tonight. Maybe I'll check in if it's close in the final four minutes - wouldn't want to miss an ending like last year - but the comps between Gonzaga 2017 and Illinois 2005 are too strong. It will hurt too much.
This was first pointed out by John Gasaway on Twitter: Gonzaga 2017 = Illinois 2005. #1 during the season. Unbeaten until their final regular season game, and then their first loss. #1 seed. A trip to the national title game. A dream season that now comes down to one thing: get that first title by preventing North Carolina from gaining their umpteenth title.
If they get it I'll just be sick.
That's the thing that has always bothered me (and you) about the North Carolina title. 13,000 people showed up for their trophy celebration back in Chapel Hill. 30,000 people showed up for our second place celebration at Memorial Stadium. The way they ho-hummed their title will always stay with me. It will always hurt. We will forever ache.
Which can be a good thing. Not really a "good" thing, but a perspective thing. I'll make Grad happy here by turning to Frederic Chopin for an explanation.
The best composers can make you ache. They can draw you in by forcing you to wait for a chord to resolve. I'm sure there are answers all across music, most of which people never realize. The listener longs for resolution, and the composer provides it. The completion of that resolution can be thrilling.
The piece I chose to be played at my wedding? Thais "Meditation" by French composer Jules Massenet. The reason? Well the main reason was that I got married on the rim of the Grand Canyon, and when you get married on the rim of the Grand Canyon there are two rules: 1) Keep the music simple, and 2) don't take a step backwards. My brother-in-law plays the violin, so when looking for music played by a single violin, Thais Meditation is really the only choice.
This piece of music contains perhaps the best "ache moment" in music. (As I'm writing this, I'm having this feeling that I've written about this before, but I'm going to keep going since most people usually stop when I break out the Classical.) Near the end of the piece, there's a pause before a chord resolution - this video starts at 4:18, the chord hangs at 4:22, resolves at 4:26, and you can actually watch the pianist lean into the resolution. I once purchased 3-4 different recordings on iTunes until I found the one with the best pause (almost six seconds). I love it when music makes me ache.
A simpler example of this can be found during Frederic Chopin's Fantasie Impromptu (Op 66). Which, if you can believe it, is used during that skateboarder Mountain Dew commercial that you've seen during the Tournament. The entire piece plays with the same theme - sometimes fast, sometimes slow - until it reaches two final chords. Unresolved chord, l o n g pause, resolved chord. This video will start at 4:52 and you can listen from there to the end. The unresolved chord is at 5:11, and then you wait and you wait and you ache... and it resolves at 5:19.
That's how I feel about our eventual national title. Heck, that's how I feel about the last 25 years of Illini football. When we get there - and a football "get there" means a Big Ten title while a basketball "get there" is a national title - it will be so much sweeter.
Look at baseball. I live in St. Louis, and in October, when I'm pouring over Seven Ways Illinois Can Win Four Of Their Last Five And Qualify For A Bowl (You Won't Believe #4!), everyone around me is obsessed with the Cardinals in the playoffs. So it's always this strange experience. Me, just begging for a 6-6 finish (Drive For Six!), while Cardinals fans are SO ANGRY with their team in their fourth consecutive NLCS. I get it, Spidey - with great power comes great responsibility, and Cards fans expect another Series - but it's always so jarring. I'm running around like a fool on the field because we beat Penn State to get to 5-6 on the season while my friends are demanding that the manager who just went to three consecutive NLCS's be immediately fired.
This is where ache helps, I think. This is where the resolution makes the final chord so much more enjoyable. This is, I hope, the payoff for the last decade.
We are a fanbase that aches. Every other Power Five program has experienced at least one "hey, that was fun" season (sweet 16 in basketball, 8-wins-and-a-solid-bowl in football) in the past 10 seasons... except for Illinois. We sit and we wait. We were in the National Title game in 2005 and the Rose Bowl in 2007... yet we sit and we wait (for a full decade now) for the chord to resolve.
And when it does, believe you me, we will enjoy it. Perhaps five times more than any "yeah, we took shortcuts to get here but so what?" North Carolina fan will enjoy this evening. We've seen the mountaintop, we've fallen to near the bottom of the valley, and we ache to return.
When it happens - and it will happen because We Will Win - I'll do what the pianist did in the video above: lean in, close my eyes, and let the resolution wash over me.
And smile. For years.